Eleanor Catton from novelist to screenwriter

Award winning author of The Luminaries thriving in transition from novelist to screenwriter

Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker prize-winning novel is currently being made into a six-part TV mini-series.

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Shooting on the adaption of her Man Booker prize-winning novel
The Luminaries is well underway in Auckland.

The production has seen a small piece of industrial Penrose transformed into 1860s Otago.

The six-part mini-series, telling a story of love, murder and revenge, will screen on BBC Two in the UK and TVNZ1 in New Zealand once complete.

1 NEWS has been given a glimpse behind the star-studded scenes.

« It’s a bit surreal actually to be on set and kind of looking at the characters, kind of seeing them bringing the world to life in a very literal way, » Eleanor Catton said.

But she’s thriving in her transition from novelist to screenwriter.
« I’ve got the screenwriting bug a little bit.

« I’m having a lot of fun here so I think I probably will turn back to novels at some point, but I’m really enjoying being right here at the moment, » she told 1 NEWS.

In fact, Catton has now spent more time adapting her novel for the screen than what it took to write.

The outdoor set, looking like 19th century Dunedin when 1 NEWS visited, is a vast mix of large false buildings, mud, animals and seemingly endless actors and extras.

Those on-screen are in thick, heavy period-piece costumes in stifling summer heat, with hand-held fans out to try to keep them cool.

The props they handle range from the detailed and delicate, right through to huge horse-drawn carts.

It’s all to give The Luminaries an on-screen presence – but the mini-series won’t be a straight copy of the novel.

« It involves a transformation, we’ve always thought about this process as more of a re-invention of the book and a re-imagining of the book than an adaption, » Catton said.

It’s the first New Zealand-shot production to be eligible for more help from the Screen Production Grant.

The cast is headlined by the likes of Eve Hewson from Ireland, France’s Eva Green, Himesh Patel from the UK and New Zealand’s Marton Csokas.

Other well-known New Zealanders feature too – and those at the helm say there’s no mistaking it’s New Zealand being put on screen.

« What has been so inspiring about this project is that it is a New Zealand story and it is a telling of our own piece of history, » producer Lisa Chatfield told 1 NEWS.

« Eleanor and the writing of her book really touched an international audience, » she said.

Eleanor Catton was the youngest person to win the Man Booker prize five years ago, aged 28.

But it’s the screen she’s found a new love for.
« Because there are things that novels can do brilliantly that are impossible on screen, but I think the converse is also true, that there are things that we can do on screen that are just harder to achieve on the page. »

The Luminaries cast :

  • Eve Hewson (Robin Hood, The Knick, Bridge of Spies) – plays Anna Wetherell
  • Eva Green (Casino Royale, Penny Dreadful, Sin City, A Dame to Kill For) – plays Lydia Wells
  • Himesh Patel (The Aeronauts, EastEnders) – plays Emery Stains
  • Ewen Leslie (The Cry, Top of the Lake: China Girl) – plays Crosbie Wells
  • Marton Csokas (The Equalizer, Lord of the Rings, Into the Badlands) – plays Francis Carver
  • Benedict Hardie (Hacksaw Ridge, The Light Between Oceans) – plays Alistair Lauderback
  • Erik Thomson (The Code, Packed to the Rafters) – plays Dick Mannering
  • Richard Te Are (In Dark Places) – plays Te Rau Tauwhare
  • Yoson An (Mortal Engines, Dead Lucky) – plays Sook Yongsheng
  • Callan Mulvey – plays George Shepard
  • Kieran Charnock – plays Edgar Clinch
  • Matt Whelan – plays Cowell Devlin
  • Byron Coll – plays Charlie Frost
  • Gary Young – plays Quee Long
  • Mark Mitchinson – plays Thomas Balfour

More of the NZ cast includes :

  • John Leigh
  • Charlie Corrigan
  • Nic Sampson
  • Jed Brophy
  • Matthew Arbuckle
  • Yvette Parsons
  • Will Hall
  • Adam Gardiner
  • Jared Turner
  • Charlies Pierard
  • Ash Jones

By Kim Baker Wilson tvnz.co.nz